For any business, managing and perfecting sales processes is a key component of bottom-line success. However, no sales department can achieve long-term success without the cooperation of a competent and high-performance customer success program. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Sales keep customers making purchases, and customer success keeps those customers happy after they do.
In most organizations, though, all of the pressure to maintain a loyal base of customers falls on the customer service department. Salespeople aren’t typically expected to create customer loyalty beyond whatever personal rapport they develop with individual customers. In reality, however, sales departments have an important role to play in customer loyalty. In fact, the way a business’s sales functions operate can make or break its efforts to retain customers.
That’s where a business’s “sales operations” approach comes into play. Having a dedicated sales operations team can supercharge customer loyalty in multiple ways. That, in turn, takes some of the pressure off of customer service and leads to better outcomes for everyone. Here’s what the term sales operations really means and an overview of how having the right sales operations approach can improve customer loyalty.
What Is Sales Ops?
Sales operations is a blanket term that describes an array of tactics, technologies, and workflows that improve the way a sales department functions. It also refers to the professionals that manage all of those factors to turn them into a coherent, workable operations plan.
In most large businesses today, there’s a dedicated sales operations department or team dedicated to doing exactly that.
What Do Sales Operations Have to Do With Customer Loyalty?
Sales operations plays a direct role in customer loyalty, because it can shape a huge part of the customer experience. After all, salespeople and processes are often a customer’s first and most frequent point of contact with a business. If they’re anything less than thrilled by the experience, a business has an immediate customer loyalty problem on its hands.
That’s one of the reasons that so many businesses lean so heavily on their customer service operations when it comes to customer loyalty. It’s their job to paper over deficiencies in the customer experience that occurred earlier on in the customer journey. Plus, they also have to deal with the run-of-the-mill customer issues that every business encounters—even when they’re doing everything right.
The right sales operations approach can help align sales departments and customer service departments to create a cohesive approach to customer relationship management. With everyone pulling in the same direction, both customers and the business will benefit.
As Time on Target’s Kevin Snow put it on a recent episode of the Agency Management Institute podcast, “When you’re focusing on what the client’s got going on, you’re asking questions and having authentic conversations, it changes the whole sales dynamic. You’re now becoming a partner and not just trying to take their money.”
In the best case scenario, sales teams know how to promise outcomes that the company is actually capable of delivering, and support teams know how to help customers achieve those outcomes. In some cases, the roles are even blended together, so that the same people who close deals with leads ensure that those customers are happy over time. Either way, it’s often by having access to the right data signals at the right moments that both roles are able to do their best work.
The Challenge of Integrating Sales Operations
Of course, it’s worth pointing out that it takes a careful and deliberate approach to stand up a sales operations function to reap the customer loyalty benefits. According to Gideon Thomas, the CMO of DealHub, a big key to success is to brief both existing sales and customer service employees about the role of the new sales operations team.
“If the role of the sales operations team isn’t understood by the entire organization,” he asserts, “the result could be siloed systems, overlapping efforts, wasted time, and general confusion.” Since that would be antithetical to improving customer loyalty, this is a critical point.
Also, studies of businesses that rely on sales operations approaches indicate that the fastest way to positively impact customer loyalty is to turn over sales enablement activities to the sales operations team. Data collected by Korn Ferry indicated that the best-performing businesses turned over 75% of their sales enablement tasks to their sales operations teams.
Aspects of Sales Operations That Boost Customer Loyalty
There are multiple aspects of sales operations that will, if executed properly, improve customer loyalty. They include the following:
A Streamlined Sales Process
If there’s one thing that will invariably harm customer loyalty, it’s wasting a customer’s time. There are many psychological reasons that explain why. Suffice to say, however, that an annoyed customer isn’t a loyal customer.
Sales operations can help to streamline sales processes to shorten the customer journey from the research phase through the purchase phase. By making that process easier, there’s less wasted time, creating happier, more loyal customers. It sets the tone for the entire relationship to come.
Better Trained, More Efficient Salespeople
One of the aspects of a sales process that can harm customer loyalty is an uneven experience with different salespeople. Some businesses get lucky and hire salespeople with a natural knack for pleasing customers. Others do not.
Most often, businesses end up with salespeople with varying levels of ability. That can leave a customer’s whole experience up to whichever salesperson happens to answer their request. Sales operations can help identify the traits of high-performing salespeople, turn them into a training program, and help to create a more universally positive sales experience for all customers.
Smarter Data-driven Sales Strategies
One of the biggest failings of the average sales department is that they don’t spend enough of their day serving customers. One survey found that the average salesperson spends 77% of their time on non-sales activity. Much of that time ends up spent on chasing down fruitless leads and trying to turn company priorities into a workable sales strategy.
A sales operations team takes that work away from salespeople and lets them get back to doing what they’re paid to do—building strong relationships with prospective customers. They replace that inefficient arrangement with a smarter sales plan backed by real-world customer data. By managing all sales analytics and overall strategy, a sales operations department removes a significant impediment to customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The Bottom Line
Sales Xceleration’s Mark Thacker believes that “The best sales teams don’t always have the best individual salespeople, but they do have the best team and a superior collective mindset focused on service and solutions.” At the end of the day, it’s clear that businesses have a vested interest in exploring the value of adding a sales operations team to their organizations.
Those that do experience improved customer loyalty, in addition to a host of other major benefits, including better overall bottom-line results. In other words, sales operations approaches work to serve everyone’s interests—businesses, their employees, and their customers—and are well worth any investments required to add them to the mix.